Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to non-traditional families. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about non-traditional families.
Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid, and you can also use our table of contents to jump to particular topics you think your kid will enjoy.
When it comes to children’s stories about non-traditional families, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear to popular sellers like Anne of Green Gables (Puffin in Bloom) to some of our favorite hidden gems like Wolfie the Bunny.
We hope this list of kids books about non-traditional families can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.
Great Dog - The age-old question of “what will I be when I grow up” gets a hilarious twist in this stylish and clever story. A pup and his father contemplate his grand future while looking at other Great Dogs in their family. Will he be a marathon runner like Uncle Tibor, the fastest dog in the family? Will he be an astronaut like Aunt Yuki, who reached for the stars? Or maybe a teacher like Uncle Scooter, respected by all? No matter what, says his father, he will be a GREAT dog!
Three Pennies - A girl in foster care tries to find her birth mother before she loses her forever in this “tender tale” (School Library Journal, starred review) about last chances and new opportunities. For a kid bouncing from foster home to foster home, The Book of Changes is the perfect companion. That’s why Marin carries three pennies and a pocket-sized I Ching with her everywhere she goes. Yet when everything in her life suddenly starts changing—like landing in a foster home that feels like somewhere she could stay, maybe forever—the pennies don’t have any answers for her. Marin is positive that all the wrongs in her life will be made right if only she can find her birth mother and convince her that they belong together. Marin is close, oh so close—until she gets some unwelcome news and her resolve, like the uneasy earth far beneath the city of San Francisco, is shaken
Wolfie the Bunny - Families of all kinds will delight in this sweet tale of new babies, sibling rivalry, bravery, unconditional love…and veggies! The Bunny family has adopted a wolf son, and daughter Dot is the only one who realizes Wolfie can—and might—eat them all up! Dot tries to get through to her parents, but they are too smitten to listen. A new brother takes getting used to, and when (in a twist of fate) it’s Wolfie who’s threatened, can Dot save the day?
Five Sisters - When a great white oak gifts an old man a branch imbued with magic, he carves five wooden matryoshka dolls, “each smaller than the last.” The wooden dolls take on a life of their own as they frolic from one season to the next, bringing the old man and his wife a joy they had always longed for. Beautiful verse and stunning, traditional illustrations full of woodland creatures and playfully painted matryoshka dolls explore a tale of heartache, hope, and love.
Caterpillar Summer - Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond. When Chicken has a “meltdown”, Cat’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s always knows what he needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat is the glue holding her family together. When a summer trip doesn’t go as planned, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they’ve never met. With their help, Cat can be a kid again for the first time in years, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes. Perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Ali Benjamin, this special novel features an unforgettable voice and is brimming with heart.
Pie in the Sky - A poignant, laugh-out-loud illustrated middle-grade novel about an eleven-year-old boy’s immigration experience, his annoying little brother, and their cake-baking hijinks! Sometimes life isn’t a piece of cake . . . When Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he’s often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao. To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she’s at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they’ll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama. In her hilarious, emotional middle-grade debut, Remy Lai delivers a scrumptious combination of vibrant graphic art and pitch-perfect writing that will appeal to fans of Real Friends.
Finding Langston - A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, with 5 Starred Reviews, and a School Library Journal Best Book of 2018 When eleven-year-old Langston’s father moves them from their home in Alabama to Chicago’s Bronzeville district, it feels like he’s giving up everything he loves. It’s 1946. Langston’s mother has just died, and now they’re leaving the rest of his family and friends. He misses everything— Grandma’s Sunday suppers, the red dirt roads, and the magnolia trees his mother loved. In the city, they live in a small apartment surrounded by noise and chaos. It doesn’t feel like a new start, or a better life. At home he’s lonely, his father always busy at work; at school he’s bullied for being a country boy. But Langston’s new home has one fantastic thing. Unlike the whites-only library in Alabama, the Chicago Public Library welcomes everyone. There, hiding out after school, Langston discovers another Langston—a poet whom he learns inspired his mother enough to name her only son after him. Lesa Cline-Ransome, author of the Coretta Scott King Honor picture book Before She Was Harriet, has crafted a lyrical debut novel about one boy’s experiences during the Great Migration. Includes an author’s note about the historical context and her research. Winner of the 2019 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction A Junior Library Guild selection!
Out of Place - When twelve-year-old Cove Bernstein becomes the target of a school-wide bullying campaign, she sets out to find a way to leave her home on Martha’s Vineyard for New York City, where her best friend lives. But Cove discovers that friends can appear in the unlikeliest places, and maybe home isn’t the worst place to be after all. Jennifer Blecher’s debut novel is a voice-driven story about bullying, friendship, and self-reliance that hits the sweet spot for fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish and Erin Entrada Kelly’s You Go First. Twelve-year-old Cove Bernstein’s year has gone from bad to worse. First, her best friend, Nina, moved from Martha’s Vineyard to New York City. Then, without Nina around, Cove became the target of a bullying campaign at school. Escape seems impossible. But opportunities can appear when you least expect them. Cove’s visit to a secondhand clothing store leads her to a surprising chance to visit Nina, but only if she can win a coveted place in a kids-only design competition. Cove doesn’t know how to sew, but her friend at the retirement home, Anna, has promised to teach her. And things start really looking up when a new kid at school, Jack, begins appearing everywhere Cove goes. Then Cove makes a big mistake. One that could ruin every good thing that has happened to her this year. One that she doesn’t know how to undo. Jennifer Blecher’s accessible and beautifully written debut novel explores actions and consequences, loneliness, bullying, and finding your voice. This voice-driven friendship story is for fans of Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger and Jodi Kendall’s The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City. Includes black-and-white spot art throughout.
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Love Makes a Family - This fun, inclusive board book celebrates the one thing that makes every family a family . . . and that’s LOVE. Love is baking a special cake. Love is lending a helping hand. Love is reading one more book. In this exuberant board book, many different families are shown in happy activity, from an early-morning wake-up to a kiss before bed. Whether a child has two moms, two dads, one parent, or one of each, this simple preschool read-aloud demonstrates that what’s most important in each family’s life is the love the family members share.
Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born - Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell, the New York Times bestselling team behind Today I Feel Silly and I’m Gonna Like Me, bring us a tender and funny picture book for every parent and child. Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born is a special celebration of the love and joy an adopted child creates for a family. In asking her parents to tell her again about the night of her birth, a young girl relives a cherished tale she knows by heart. Focusing on the significance of family and love, this a unique and beautiful story about adoption and the importance of a loving family. A beautiful adoption story, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born also speaks to the universal childhood desire to know more about the excitement, awe, love, and sleeplessness that a new baby brings to a family. Tell me again about the night I was born. Tell me again how you would adopt me and be my parents. Tell me again about the first time you held me in your arms.
Ella Unleashed - The Parent Trap meets Best in Show in this charming novel about a girl who must learn to make peace with the unpredictability of life. Ella Cohen was skeptical when her mom started dating Krishnan just a few months after her parents’ divorce. But two years later, she really likes having her new stepfather around. When she decides to enter a junior dog show, Krishnan even lets her start handling his dog, Elvis. She’s determined to become an expert handler, even after her first show ends in disaster. Unfortunately, some things are harder to control—like Ella’s dad, who has changed a lot since the divorce. He used to be laid back and fun, but now he hovers over her constantly, terrified she’s going to shatter into a million pieces if she so much as hints that everything in her life isn’t perfect. Ella is particularly upset that his animosity toward Krishnan keeps him from coming to watch her handle Elvis, especially when she wins a lottery spot in the National Dog Show in Philadelphia. When Ella’s best friends suggest she find her dad a date to the dog show, it seems like the perfect solution. If her dad has a new girlfriend, surely he won’t mind so much that Ella’s mom has a new husband. So Ella decides to play matchmaker, going so far as to create a fake online dating profile in order to find her dad his one true love. But it turns out people, much like dogs, aren’t always so easy to control, and Ella’s plan backfires at the worst possible moment. Can Ella manage to bring her divided life together in time for her moment in the spotlight?
The Ring Bearer - Mama’s getting married, and Jackson has an important job to do! A story about love, weddings, and the special joy that is a blended family. Jackson’s mama is getting married, and he gets to be the ring bearer. But Jackson is worried . . . What if he trips? Or walks too slowly? Or drops the rings? And what about his new stepsister, Sophie? She’s supposed to be the flower girl, but Jackson’s not sure she’s taking her job as seriously as she should. In a celebration of blended families, this heartwarming story, stunningly illustrated by the award-winning Floyd Cooper, is a perfect gift for any child who’s nervous to walk down the aisle at a wedding, and shows kids that they can handle life’s big changes.
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All the Ways Home - Sometimes, home isn’t where you expect to find it. After losing his mom in a fatal car crash, Kaede Hirano—now living with a grandfather who is more stranger than family—developed anger issues and spent his last year of middle school acting out. Best-friendless and critically in danger repeating the seventh grade, Kaede is given a summer assignment: write an essay about what home means to him, which will be even tougher now that he’s on his way to Japan to reconnect with his estranged father and older half-brother. Still, if there’s a chance Kaede can finally build a new family from an old one, he’s willing to try. But building new relationships isn’t as easy as destroying his old ones, and one last desperate act will change the way Kaede sees everyone—including himself. This is a book about what home means to us—and that there are many different correct answers.
Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas - When her mami meets someone new, Juana worries that everything will change in a humorous, heartwarming follow-up to the Pura Belpré Award-winning Juana & Lucas. Juana’s life is just about perfect. She lives in the beautiful city of Bogotá with her two most favorite people in the world: her mami and her dog, Lucas. Lately, though, things have become a little less perfect. Mami has a new hairdo and a new amigo named Luis with whom she has been spending a LOT of time. He is kind and teaches Juana about things like photography and jazz music, but sometimes Juana can’t help wishing things would go back to the way they were before. When Mami announces that she and Luis are getting married and that they will all be moving to a new casa, Juana is quite distraught. Lucky for her, though, some things will never change — like how much Mami loves her. Based on author-illustrator Juana Medina’s own childhood in Colombia, this joyful series is sure to resonate with readers of all ages.
To Night Owl from Dogfish - Unhappy about being sent to the same summer camp after their fathers start dating, Bett and Avery, eleven, eventually begin scheming to get the couple back together after a break-up. Told entirely through text messages.
Double Play - Allie loves baseball. It’s the one thing that has been consistent in her lately complicated life. Allie’s father left recently, and now Allie has a new family — her mother’s new girlfriend, Phyllis, and son Miles have moved in. It’s taking some adjustment, mostly because Miles seems determined to get under her skin. Things start looking up when Allie gets invited to join the boy’s baseball team as their new pitcher. But then Miles announces he’s quitting the boy’s team and tries out for Allie’s old team — a girl’s team! Allie is sure he’s doing it just to annoy her, but Miles insists that he just likes the girl’s style of play better. As Allie struggles to find her place on the boy’s team, she starts to see that Miles is just trying to fit in as well, and that it may be even harder for him than it has been for her.
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Bruce's Big Move (Mother Bruce Series) - After the events of Hotel Bruce, our favorite curmudgeonly bear shares his home with not only his four geese, but three rowdy mice besides! Fed up with their shenanigans, Bruce sets off to find a rodent-free household. But as usual, nothing goes quite according to plan. . . A hilarious sequel for fans of the previous Bruce books, as well as a standalone discovery for new readers, Bruce’s next reluctant adventure is sure to keep kids giggling.
See You in the Cosmos - 11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.
Wild Things - Stubborn, self-reliant eleven-year-old Zoe, recently orphaned, is forced to move to the country to live with her strange and bad-tempered uncle. Zoe could care less that he’s a famous doctor and sculptor. All she knows is that he is impossible to understand. The only interesting thing on the farm is a feral cat who won’t let Zoe near. Together, Zoe and her uncle learn about trust and the strength of family ties. In this moving coming-of-age novel, Zoe comes to understand what it means to love and be loved, uncovers a long-kept secret, and finds family where she least expects it. Includes an interview with the author and a reading group guide. Named ALA Notable Children’s Book Award; Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s books of the Year; NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts; Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book.
The Goose Egg - From the author of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record pick Quackers comes the story of Henrietta the Elephant, whose life goes from calm to chaotic when a baby goose comes to stay.
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The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones - “My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain. The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him and to let them know him.”—
It's Not Your Fault, Koko Bear - KoKo bear learns what divorce means, how to deal with changes and how to recognize and deal with feelings
Always Mom, Forever Dad - Children whose parents no longer live together discover that although much has changed, and time spent with Mom is different than time spent with Dad, love is there no matter what.
Emily's Blue Period - After her parents get divorced, Emily finds comfort in making and learning about art.